One of the biggest misconceptions of the fitness industry is that carbs are bad. Not only are carbs not bad, but they are a necessary tool in any bodybuilder’s tool kit. While we believe that low carb diets have their time and place, the overall conception that carbs are taboo is one of the most ridiculous myths in the fitness industry.
To start let’s talk about why carbs are important
For any athlete looking to have peak athletic performance, carbs are an absolute must. When you eat carbs, they are broken down by the body and used as energy. Anything that is not immediately used is stored as glycogen, which acts as “backup fuel” for the body.
What is glycogen you may ask.
Well, have you ever had an extremely large meal that’s high in carbs, then later in the day you have the best workout of your life with high pumps and energy? That, is glycogen.
The reason carbohydrates and glycogen are so important is because they basically give your body the energy it needs to exercise, while also regulating your hormones. Low carb diets have been shown to increase cortisol (the stress hormone responsible for unwanted abdominal fat), and has also been shown to put the body in a catabolic state. When your body is in a catabolic state, your body breaks down muscle tissue.
Now just because carbs are important, this does not mean that all carbs are equal.
There are 2 basic types of carbohydrates: simple and complex.
Complex carbs are found in whole grains and veggies. These carbs are broken down by the body much slower, and therefore produce a much smaller spike in insulin and blood sugar. For these reasons, complex carbs are generally considered to be “healthier”, as they do not elicit a hormonal response that can trigger fat storage.
Complex carbs are useful because they are more efficiently utilized by the body, which means it is easier to take advantage of a meal high in complex carbs when paired with the right workout routine.
Simple carbs are usually found in refined or processed foods, fruits, candy, syrups, and anything else that is high in sugar. Simple carbs are typically referred to as “dirty” carbs, as they typically provide little nutritional value.
Furthermore, simple carbs are broken down much quicker by the body which results in a quick increase in glucose and insulin. This can be useful when used correctly in conjunction with your workout regimen, but typically speaking, simple carbs are often the culprit for unwanted weight gain.
Does this mean all simple carbs are bad?
Not at all!
When utilized correctly, simple carbs can be just as effective as complex carbs in the bodybuilding world.
Simple carbs really shine when they are eaten directly before or after a workout. When eaten about an hour before a workout, simple carbs are an excellent way to get a quick energy boost. This is especially useful for those who haven’t had a proper meal that day and need something to increase their blood sugar before a workout. Simple carbs are also a staple in many bodybuilder’s tool box as a post workout snack. Because simple carbs elicit an insulin spike in the body, they allow the body to have better nutrient absorption for a short amount of time, which means you are getting the most out of your post workout shake. Lastly, the fast digesting carbs act as an immediate replenishment to your body’s glycogen levels. While this isn’t a huge deal for the average athlete, glycogen replenishment is extremely important for the hardcore athlete that has multiple training sessions in a day.
It’s important to always do your own research before buying into the hype of the fitness industry. Unfortunately, the world of bodybuilding is prone to some pretty crazy myths.
What are your thoughts on carbs… Useful aid in bodybuilding, or useless inhibitor to being shredded?
We’d love to hear your comments below!